In the three elections since the inception of the 76th State Assembly District in 2012, no Democrat has advanced to the runoff stage of the campaign. In fact, no Democratic candidate has appeared on the ballot during that time.
This backdrop makes the June 5 results all the more surprising, as two Democrats will move forward in the race to replace Rocky Chavez.
Elizabeth Warren finished Tuesday night ahead of fellow Democrat Tasha Boerner Horvath by 330 votes, each with about 25 percent of the vote. Republican Phil Graham, who received the endorsement from the party’s establishment, finished in third place with 21.1 percent of the vote.
“There weren’t a lot of big surprises on the night, only little surprises,” political consultant John Dadian said. “But this qualifies as one of those surprises.”
Boerner Horvath, who serves on the Encinitas City Council, and Warren, a popular Oceanside activist, both expressed cautious optimism that the results would hold as the registrar of voters begins to count absentee, provisional and mail-in ballots.
“We have been saying all along that we look forward to turning the district blue, and now we are looking forward to a positive runoff campaign,” Boerner Horvath said.
“We remain optimistic that we’ll fare well when all the votes are counted,” Warren said. “I’d also like to send my thanks and good wishes to the many candidates who ran clean, issue-focused campaigns, and to the many volunteers who gave countless hours to our campaign and others. This election is about the voters — not the candidates. It’s about regular people who work hard and deserve better than they’re getting.”
Seven candidates comprised a crowded field to replace Chavez, who saw his bid to succeed Darrell Issa as 49th District congressman fail on June 5 as well.
Graham was one of several high-profile Republicans, including Thomas Krouse, Amanda Rigby, Jerome Stocks and Maureen Muir.
Graham’s campaign was roiled by false accusations that he forcibly kissed a woman in a bar last month. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department cleared Graham a week after the woman, Niki Burgan, made the allegations.
Republicans and Graham’s campaign spent the final week fending off political mailers and robocalls that alluded to the incident even after he was cleared. The state Fair Political Practices Commission and the Public Utilities Commission are investigating one such robocall.
Dadian, who was the chief of staff of former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, said he believed the aborted scandal had minimal impact on the race’s outcome.
“Because of the fact it was so short in nature, I don’t think it had that big of an impact,” Dadian said.
Graham’s campaign did not respond to several text messages left by reporters.
One political expert said that Republicans had too many candidates on the ballot, which split the vote to make it difficult for any of them to make it through to the November runoff. Experts had predicted this scenario would harm Democrats in congressional races across the state.
“They had too many good candidates, which can be too much of a good thing,” UCSD political science professor Thad Kousser said. “It is inarguably bad that in one of the key battleground districts in the state, Republicans have no shot in November. It is good for Democrats, but bad for democracy.”